Sleep with Illness and Colds

Mary Foster | Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant

It’s that time of the year again, days get chillies and with the lower temperature, here come the first colds and, if you are reading this, chances are that your little one is probably not feeling well right now. When your baby catches a cold, it can be miserable for the entire family as sleep is often disrupted when kids are ill, with good reason, but usually, the regression can last a while. 

Learn how to help your little one get the rest he needs when he’s sick and avoid regressions.

What to do

Just like you need some extra sleep when you are not feeling well, your little one needs the same. Unfortunately, it can be a challenging task with a stuffy nose, coughing, fever and overall discomfort. Chances are, your little one would love some extra cuddles when he’s sick, so give him some more cuddles and be extra patient. 

Patience is actually the key when your little one is sick because he will likely wake up many times during the night and will need your help to go back to sleep each time. You can expect a massive regression in sleep during this time, especially if your baby has been struggling with sleep already. On the other hand, if your little one is usually a great sleeper, any sleep regressions will be short-lived after the illness because he already knows how to sleep well.

What can you do if your little one keeps waking up?  

Unfortunately, there is little you can do if your child keeps coughing and waking up during the night as this is just part of the course of the illness. Try to keep your baby well-hydrated, an extra feed or water might be necessary during the night to help ease the discomfort of a sore or dry throat. You should definitely speak with a doctor for advice to in case of chronic coughs or laboured breathing, otherwise for common colds, you will likely just need to ride it out, which unfortunately can take a few weeks sometimes. During this time, it’s very easy to let illnesses get routine off track but as soon as your baby shows signs of getting better, start immediately reinforcing your regular routines as much as possible. It can take as little as 3 days to get used to a new (bad) habit, therefore the sooner you get back on track, the less likely a regression will take place.

What happens with longer illness?

During the autumn and winter months, it’s easy for your baby to catch one bug after another, so sometimes your little one might be sick for longer than 3 days. In this situation, you may have a complete regression with sleep and you may need to take a few steps back and re-implement routine and possibly sleep training. If you used a sleep training method in the past, getting back on track will be much faster because your little one has done it before.

How do I know it’s okay to get back on track?

If your little one is well enough to visit a friend, go to nursery or school, then he is likely well enough to start focusing on sleep again. You can tell by your little one’s behaviour when they are really feeling ill and when they are getting better so if your child is back to his normal energy level, that’s a really good sign.

Communication is key

After your little one has been ill for a while, it’s extremely important to communicate that you are going back to their regular sleep routine and any changes that it may entail. Even if you don’t think that your child understands, try to communicate it anyway as little ones often understand more than you believe. Communication brings respect and understanding, so it won’t do any harm to explain that you are going back to the routine of sleeping at night and you will have lots of cuddles before bedtime and in the morning. It’s important that they know what’s going on, otherwise, it might feel very unfair to them that all of a sudden your behaviour changes if they got used to getting some extra cuddles during the night while they were sick.

Hopefully, you are going to be able to get your child back to his normal routine in a few days so everyone in the family can enjoy some more sleep!

Mary Foster
Founder & CEO at | | Website | + posts

Hi! I'm Mary. Founder of Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consulting. I'm the mum of 3 very busy kids and have an amazing hubby. I grew up in Canada but we love our home in England.

I'm passionate about making the parenting journey a little easier for you and helping your little one become a GREAT sleeper!

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